W A L L E Y E   H U N T E R
Fishing Articles by Colin D. Crawford
Winter Strategies for Walleyes
by Colin D. Crawford
The key to ice fishing, as it is in any fishing is location. For walleye and other gamefish, try long tapering points; inside channel turns; rock humps, neck downs, and structure near spring spawning areas. Use the sonar to spot fish. Try submerged brush piles and blowdowns for crappie and bluegill. Watch the screen or flasher. You can actually see fish appear on a graph. Sensitive sonars track your lure so you can put it right in the fish's face. I have actually seen a day when a mark appeared on the sonar screen while reeling in a lure. A pause, and the mark moved closer to the bait. A twitch of the wrist brought a powerful strike. A heart-racing fight put a nice eight pound walleye on the ice. The same situation can be used for panfish.
Of course at this time of year it is hard to troll to find active fish, but in a sense you can apply the methods that you use in the summertime. Drill holes from the shallowest portion of the structure you are fishing and then continue to drill holes at various depths as the structure drops off into deeper water. Then instead of "trolling" along the structure you can use tip-ups to cover from the deepest to the shallowest point. Tip-ups enable you to cover more water than you could with a minnow and float. A flag can be seen from several hundred feet away. Most states allow you to use two lines and if you have a number of fishing buddies with you, you can cover the structure at various depths and in effect troll the edge of the structure.
If I haven't had any action in 15 minutes, I move! Drill a few more holes. It'll keep you warm. If you can't handle the labor, bring a young kid with you. They love to fish and they have unlimited energy as long as they are enthusiastic about the trip. Remember kids have short attention spans (so do most adults) and if the fish aren't hitting or the weather is too cold or windy it's no fun at all being on the ice. Keep it short and sweet and your youngster will be much more likely to get excited about the next trip.
It wasn't that long ago I remember going fishing with my dad and we had a hand auger a few jigs, waxworms and the most important invention, the plastic five gallon pail. We always walked to a specific location using the triangular positions of the dead tree on the far shore lined up with the white house and fifty paces from the last point we crossed.
Two of the most revolutionary devices for ice fishing are the hand held GPS like the GlobalMap 100 and the portable X49 Lowrance depthfinder. Without these, ice angling would still be in the first ice age.
I have good luck locating fish holding structure through the ice using my portable locator. By making use of the zoom feature, I can identify fish that are holding very tight to the structure being checked. By simply wetting the ice and placing the transducer on the wet spot, you can examine the bottom make-up before drilling your holes. This saves you both time and work.
Today, when a hot spot is located, the location can easily be electronically saved as a waypoint on a hand held GPS, ensuring swift, efficient guaranteed returns with just the press of the button. If only I had one these when I was a kid. The frustrating times trying to find that white house and the dead tree when in actuality the house was painted a different color and the dead tree fell in the high wind last summer. GPS would have helped my dad and me locate those roving schools of walleyes next to that favorite dropoff.
Nothing on ice compares to a Frabill portable ice shelter. Designed from the ice up to deliver unmatched performance, convenience and comfort. User-friendly and built to last, Frabill shelters offer the features serious ice anglers need for comfort and mobility on the ice. From extreme one-man portable designs to extra large four angler styles, Frabill offers a shelter for your style of fishing. Whether it is the Hide Out, Cub Shak or the Shak XL these are a real necessity to stay on the ice all day or night.
Jigging walleyes is the most deadly method of all, if done properly. Proper size, color selection and action all come into play. Early season fishing I like to use a Jigging Rapala in chartreuse or silver and black and this past year I really liked using the rainbow trout color. I also spend a little extra time and put on the next size bigger treble hook. This additional size hook allows me to put the head of a fathead minnow on and still have plenty of play in the hook to jig a natural action and increase hookups with additional space between the shank and the barb of the hook.
It is a good idea to keep your jigging action down to a minimum. But, you also have to respond to the mood of the fish. If I find that the fish prefer to have a tempting morsel just quivered in front of their face then I will do that. Other times the fish might be attracted to the jig slamming into the sand and making a "plume action" that stirs up the floor of the lake. When the Genz Worm is on the bottom, impart a tapping movement to your rod. This causes the lure to "stir up" the bottom. Then raise the Genz Worm slightly. This works best on mud flats where the rising mud plume imitates natural baits, attracts fish, and triggers strikes. The constant jigging or jiggling will keep the lure from spinning. If allowed to merely hang, line twist will impart an unnatural spin to the lure. This is usually a method when you are fishing transitional areas where sand meets rock or mud.
Jigging action combined with sound of rattles has also been a new innovative method that has really worked well. For this I will put on a Rattling Hooker from Lindy Tackle. This added sound and vibration many times attracts fish when they are turned off with other bait presentations. Always remember these walleyes want an easy meal. Regardless of the type of lake you fish, your choice in baits is also critical. Use larger baits under stable weather conditions. For walleye and pike, don't hesitate to use the largest shiners you can get. If you are jigging, also use larger spoons. After a front, downsize your minnow. Many nice walleye have been taken on small crappie minnows under adverse conditions. Panfish can become finicky after a weather change, so, again, down size your bait.
If you are interested in these techniques or if are interested in a
guided trip, a personal media interview, or photo shoot, please call
715-545-8347. If you are interested in reading more about these
techniques or other fishing patterns log onto www.northwoodsfishing.net
I hope to hear from you soon.
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Since August 1, 1998